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Sexual harassment claim surfaces against local mayor

Sexual harassment claim surfaces against a local mayor. (WPEC)

Only on CBS12 News, a local mayor says he will not comment on allegations of sexual harassment, and a state ethics investigation now underway.

The woman making the accusations tells CBS12News the mayor tried to use his position of power to get sex from her.

The woman says the incidents happened about four years ago, but until now she's been afraid to do anything about it.

We spent all day Monday trying to get the Mayor’s side of this story, but when we found him at a city hall meeting, he didn’t have much to say.

"I have nothing to say, the meeting is about to start, go sit down," Lantana Mayor David Stewart said to our news crew.

The longtime Lantana resident describes repeated cases of sexual harassment in a complaint to the state ethics commission.

And in a police report, she describes what she thinks is a frightening temper.

"I felt intimidated, but I don't think any laws were broken," Catherine Padilla said.

In 2015 she started getting signatures in her neighborhood, a petition to have Lantana Public Works put in a speed bump because she was worried about cars speeding through with school children around.

She says she was friends with the mayor, so she didn't think it odd when he asked her to lunch, to discuss the speed bump.

But she says after the meal, they went for a drive in his truck and stopped in a motel parking lot, she says the mayor asked her to go into a room.

"And [he said] have sex and I'll guarantee you that your street will get the speed humps that you want," Padilla said.

Padilla says after she turned him down, there were some awkward phone calls.

She says Mayor Stewart was bringing up a motel room rendezvous again.

"To put all that on me and try to coerce sexual favors, to get something from him or from the town, that was uncalled for," Padilla said

Last month, Padilla decided the situation needed to be reported, so she contacted the state ethics commission.

According to a police report, when the mayor learned there was a complaint about him, he went to her house, but Padilla wouldn't let him in.

It’s important to note the mayor, described on Lantana's town website as Ernest Hemmingway meets Jimmy Buffett meets Santa Claus, is not under a criminal investigation, not facing charges and CBS 12 is not aware of any other possible complaints against him since his election 18-years ago.

Padilla says 4 years ago, she was dealing with a death in the family and some other personal issues, but she feels now the time is right to come forward.

We’ll let you know what, if anything, comes from the state ethics investigation.


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